Update: Counselor who refused gay couples loses appeal

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LONDON (RNS) A former church elder who was fired after he refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples has lost his appeal on grounds of unfair dismissal.

Gary MacFarlane was axed from his job with the marriage counseling service Relate nine months ago after telling his bosses in Bristol, England, that he would do nothing that could be seen as promoting same-sex relationships.

He claimed he was a victim of religious discrimination and appealed to have his dismissal reversed.

Bristol’s Employment Tribunal, however, ruled Dec. 1 against MacFarlane’s contention that Relate had refused to accommodate his Christian beliefs.

The company’s chief executive, Claire Tyler, told journalists after the ruling that “the appeal judgment validates Relate’s commitment to equality of access to our services.”

She insisted that Relate had to make sure “that all members of society, regardless of their gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation or relationship status, are able to access respectful and professional counseling and sex therapy.”

Tyler added that her organization “is committed to supporting all religious beliefs working within Relate.”

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